“Volunteering fulfils me”: Story of a refugee family from Presevo – Serbia
Thu, 05/04/2018 - 09:28

Raohallah Azizi, a 50 year old man from Afghanistan, likes to help as a volunteer in Caritas by distributing meals, as well as cleaning and washing dishes.

He has been living in Presevo camp in the south of Serbia for the past 15 months, together with his wife Mahjam (45 years old) and his five children: son Nessar Ahmed (17), daughter Zulhedja (14), sons Zaher (12) and Ahmad Reza (11) and the little daughter Yusra (4). They also have two other older daughters, who are married and are staying with their families in Afghanistan, as well as a daughter who is also married and living in Finland with her family. They come from the province of Parwan in Afghanistan, which they left two years ago.

"We tried to leave several times, through Pakistan and Iran, but we were caught and brought back to Afghanistan. We finally managed two years ago and we travelled two months through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to get to Greece. The only way we could leave the country was with the help of smugglers. But it wasn’t easy, that you just pay and travel, the trip included walking over the cold mountains of Iran, crossing the rivers and the sea, sleeping in hidden places like caves and huts or in the open-air. We often had no food and water and we were afraid that our children wouldn’t manage to be strong enough till the end of the journey. We spent 7 months in a camp in Greece and it was only there where children started learning English. After that we went to Albania, Kosovo and from there we arrived to Serbia," said Raohallah.

Adnan Hasan – Caritas translator and one of the members of the Caritas psycho-social support team – explained how the children are managing in Serbia: "One of the children, the 11 year old Ahmad, comes to our extracurricular activities. He is very smart, he already speaks well Serbian and English, although he only started attending regular school last September. The children used to come to our animation and recreational activities last year, even before they started attending regular school, so we had English and Serbian classes organised for them. During this school year, he already sang in the school choir and he did a recital in Serbian. He is preparing another recital for a school celebration. His father used to be a tailor in Afghanistan, so he likes to come to the Caritas sewing workshop to help his family and the other people in the camp if they need to fix or sew some clothes".

Adnan said that there is great interest in volunteering among the refugees, there is almost a waiting list, so Raohallah first started distributing tea and when two refugees applies for asylum in Serbia and moved to another camp, he was able to start distributing food and washing dishes.

When asked why he is volunteering Raohallah explained: "I’m used to working and I would like to help other refugees and migrants as well. I don’t want to be passive and do nothing, I want this to be my contribution for the help that we receive. I wanted to volunteer with Caritas, because I recognised in their staff members an active attitude for helping people. It’s a pleasure for me to do this, the work and the time spent with these people fulfils me".

- Caritas psycho-social support team in Presevo - Serbia is working with the financial support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Caritas Germany.
- Caritas food assistance to refugees and migrants in southern Serbia (Presevo, Bujanovac and Vranje) is provided with the financial support of the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

Article first published by Caritas Serbia.